There is No Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality? Really?

There is no net neutrality. Get used to it.

It isn’t a matter of freedom of choice, the need to fight against corporate oppression. It is a matter of technical need. Here are a few resources to change your mind if you think all bits are created equal.

Net neutrality

Martin Geddes

Martin Geddes cannot be accused of being friends with telecom companies – at least not with their current way of thinking. He is running a great newsletter – if you like reading my posts here, you will probably love reading his newsletters.

Dan York did a very good summary of Martin Geddes concept of Hypervoice. The comments there are also worth noting.

Google and Orange

So… it seems Google has been paying Orange to get its content faster to users.

Not sure what the issue is here. Companies such as Akamai, are placing their servers within operator networks to build CDNs – content delivery networks. These are used to make sure your data gets copied around the world and served where it is close to the end user – this service can be seen as a non-neutral solution.

By paying to a third party, I can make sure my services run better on the network – the more money I have, the better I can compete simply by employing CDN or CDN-like technologies.

What is the difference of paying to a CDN vendor sitting inside an operator’s network to paying to the operator directly?

What happens if operators start running their own CDNs and offering them to potential customers? Will that abide to net neutrality rules, now that the companies doing that are also hosting the network itself?

Netflix

And what about Netflix? They grew to a point that allows them to build their own private CDN and then force it on operators:

Netflix Open Connect is in part a effort by Netflix to counter that gambit by offering to peer directly with ISPs or by co-locating servers at the ISP’s facilities. The idea is to offer ISPs a way to reduce their overall transit costs as incentive to connect directly with Netflix. Once connected, any effort by the ISP to get cute with Netflix Open Connect would smack of discrimination against Netflix itself, and likely would draw a red flag from the FCC.

The bigger you get, the easier it is for you to push your bits towards the users.

The net was never neutral, and it never will be.

Bits are not born equal – as Martin Geddes puts it – they aren’t human, so why treat them as such?

This post you are reading is being hosted on a VPS in Israel. Why? Because I already had it there for another blog that I have and was too scrooge to pay for another server in the US. This whole blog is a hobby for me, so I have my limits in how much I invest in it.

Watching a video on YouTube or Vimeo? I am sure you’ll appreciate higher bandwidths for those bits – you want more of them and a lot faster than you want this post that I’ve written.

Doing a Skype video call? Or even a voice one… I am sure you want to hear me in a natural tone, and not have to wait for a few seconds for me to talk – latency is more important here than it is on the other ones.

Delving into high frequency trading? Pay for a few milliseconds to get an edge over your competition. This is a good enough reason to place another, special, underwater transatlantic fiber-optic cable.

If the network itself had the capabilities of distinguishing between its bits, giving them different qualities, would that be such a bad thing?

WebRTC will go through the same path. It starts by playing around with the technology. Uploading static demos, launching services that are local to a country. And then deploying servers around the world.

I can even envision a service where routing the data through the specialized network will take less time than running it directly between endpoints – the relay network you build can run faster as it is dedicated and managed.

You’d pay for such a service if you wanted to use it for serious business.

And while we are at it, why not pay to get a lower latency from the service providers as well? How different is it from buying a dedicated MPLS line as an enterprise or buy CDN services as a “broadcaster”?

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Comments

  1. Well stated, as usual, Tsahi. Even for the fans of NN, can we agree that it is not effectively or economically enforceable, and attempted enforcement would likely have negative unforeseen consequences, even if all the intentions were terrific? In the US, check the PSTN regulatory environment for reference…

  2. Well stated, as usual, Tsahi. Even for the fans of NN, can we agree that it is not effectively or economically enforceable, and attempted enforcement would likely have negative unforeseen consequences, even if all the intentions were terrific? In the US, check the PSTN regulatory environment for reference…

  3. I have no problems with end-users (like the enterprise in your last few sentences) paying extra for better service, that is just fine. I’d say that does not inflict any pain on NN.

    Why is Google paying Orange ? Because mobile is booming, telecom operators can’t keep up with demand right now (I’m sure it will be solved, but it will take some time and/or deployment of better technologies at the edge: Multipath-TCP anyone ?).

  4. I disagree strongly with this – and have frequent online debates with Martin about this, even though we see eye-to-eye on many other topics.

    The CDN argument is a strawman. It does not change the fundamental way that Internet traffic is treated by ISPs – it just alters the virtual topology of the Internet (which is convoluted anyway) to the content company’s advantage. It’s in the same category as if you lived on a small Pacific Island connected via satellite, and choose to host your server in San Francisco instead. Or, indeed, picked a fast/direct fibre routing.

    Yes, if you pay money you get “better” Internet delivery, but that’s also true of paying money for better servers, or better web designers. It doesn’t alter HTTP or IP behaviour, and isn’t contrary to the way the public Internet usually functions. In particular, to the user access part of the Internet (the most important for NN), it makes no difference whatsoever.

    The Netflix thing *is* more interesting, but it depends how those services end up getting marketed to consumers. If the movies are sold as part of an IPTV bundle, delivered to a settop box, then they are not (in my view) part of the “public Internet” any more.

    It’s important to make a clear distinction between INTERnet neutrality vs. more general broadband net neutrality. Internet access is only one service delivered via broadband – along with IPTV, carrier VoIP & maybe smart metering, corporate IP-VPNs etc. Those don’t need to be neutral, but the bit that gets marketed as “public Internet access” does.

    Except in Finland, no telco is forced to offer Internet Access to its customers. But if it *does*, it needs to be Real Internet, not some horrible form of Processed Internet-flavoured Substitute

    Dean

    • Tsahi Levent-Levi says:

      Disagreements are good for the sole :-)

      If I get it right, carriers are not allowed to pick and choose while content providers can.

      So if I am a carrier, can I at least try to understand from the bits flowing over my network which belong to web pages and which belong to voice and video to treat them better to improve the quality of experience – irregardless of if it is my own content or some third party contect – or am I not allowed that as well due to “net neutrality”?

      Can I cache stuff that goes over my pipes if there’s high demand for it (like the posts on this hugely successful blog for example – or the latest Harlem Shake on YouTube for that matter) – or is that considered a no no?

      Where is the line drawn in what I can do to optimize content for my network?

      • There is no line where you can optimize or traffic shape based on usage on your own network. You can even block traffic based on abuse.

        The line is drawn at things like getting payed by content providers to give preference of their traffic over traffic of other content providers. Or forcing content providers to pay to give higher preference to their content because you traffic shape.

        • Tsahi Levent-Levi says:

          So Akamai places their caching servers at the carrier’s premises.

          Akamai probably pays the carrier for that floor space and electricity.

          I pay Akamai to get my content faster to the consumers – and all is well with the world.

          Only thing that happened here, is that the line was crossed. I don’t think there’s an easy or natural place to put a line in the sand when it comes to net neutrality.

          • The line wasn’t crossed: Netflix is also free to pay the carrier/access provider to put their servers inside that network.

  5. I disagree strongly with this – and have frequent online debates with Martin about this, even though we see eye-to-eye on many other topics.

    The CDN argument is a strawman. It does not change the fundamental way that Internet traffic is treated by ISPs – it just alters the virtual topology of the Internet (which is convoluted anyway) to the content company’s advantage. It’s in the same category as if you lived on a small Pacific Island connected via satellite, and choose to host your server in San Francisco instead. Or, indeed, picked a fast/direct fibre routing.

    Yes, if you pay money you get “better” Internet delivery, but that’s also true of paying money for better servers, or better web designers. It doesn’t alter HTTP or IP behaviour, and isn’t contrary to the way the public Internet usually functions. In particular, to the user access part of the Internet (the most important for NN), it makes no difference whatsoever.

    The Netflix thing *is* more interesting, but it depends how those services end up getting marketed to consumers. If the movies are sold as part of an IPTV bundle, delivered to a settop box, then they are not (in my view) part of the “public Internet” any more.

    It’s important to make a clear distinction between INTERnet neutrality vs. more general broadband net neutrality. Internet access is only one service delivered via broadband – along with IPTV, carrier VoIP & maybe smart metering, corporate IP-VPNs etc. Those don’t need to be neutral, but the bit that gets marketed as “public Internet access” does.

    Except in Finland, no telco is forced to offer Internet Access to its customers. But if it *does*, it needs to be Real Internet, not some horrible form of Processed Internet-flavoured Substitute

    Dean

    • Tsahi Levent-Levi says:

      Disagreements are good for the sole :-)

      If I get it right, carriers are not allowed to pick and choose while content providers can.

      So if I am a carrier, can I at least try to understand from the bits flowing over my network which belong to web pages and which belong to voice and video to treat them better to improve the quality of experience – irregardless of if it is my own content or some third party contect – or am I not allowed that as well due to “net neutrality”?

      Can I cache stuff that goes over my pipes if there’s high demand for it (like the posts on this hugely successful blog for example – or the latest Harlem Shake on YouTube for that matter) – or is that considered a no no?

      Where is the line drawn in what I can do to optimize content for my network?

  6. Tsahi Levent-Levi says:

    So Akamai places their caching servers at the carrier’s premises.

    Akamai probably pays the carrier for that floor space and electricity.

    I pay Akamai to get my content faster to the consumers – and all is well with the world.

    Only thing that happened here, is that the line was crossed. I don’t think there’s an easy or natural place to put a line in the sand when it comes to net neutrality.

    • The line wasn’t crossed: Netflix is also free to pay the carrier/access provider to put their servers inside that network.

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